Iran sends naval fleet to Russia

By Sara Rajabova

Iran has dispatched a naval fleet to the Russian port city of Astrakhan in a move to strengthen relations between Tehran and Moscow.

Deputy commander of the Iranian Navy, Rear Admiral Siavash Jarreh said on June 26 that two missile-launching warships, which were manufactured by young Iranian specialists and joined the naval forces in 2003 and 2006, have been dispatched for the first time to Astrakhan in the form of a naval group, Press TV reported.

The measure is aimed at consolidating the amicable ties between Iran and Russia and conveying Tehran's message of peace and friendship to the Caspian Sea littoral states, the Iranian official added.

During the Iranian naval fleet's stay at Astrakhan Port, the Iranian naval officers will visit some military and port facilities in Russia and hold meetings with a number of high-ranking Russian commanders and officials, Jarreh said.

In April, a group of Russian Navy warships docked at the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas after a long journey from the Pacific Ocean.

In recent years, Iran's Navy has been increasing its presence in international waters to protect naval routes and provide security for merchant vessels and tankers.

Meanwhile, Iranian Navy Commander Habibollah Sayyari reaffirmed Iran's determination to protect maritime security for the country's commercial vessels.

"As long as we maintain our maritime presence, we will not allow any intrusion against our commercial ships," Sayyari said.

He added that so far, apart from escorting more than 2,000 commercial vessels and oil tankers, the Navy has had nearly 150 confrontations with pirates and has arrested and handed over several groups of them to respective judicial authorities.

Sayyari pointed out that Iran has provided maritime security as far away as the southern Indian waters down to 10-degree northern latitude and has assisted both Iranian vessels and foreign ships requesting help.

Iran's Navy has been expanding its presence in international waters since last year, deploying vessels to the Indian Ocean and around the Horn of Africa. It also dispatched two ships via the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean for the first time in February 2011.

Moreover, in line with the international efforts to combat piracy, the Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 to shield the vessels involved in maritime trade, especially ships and oil tankers owned or leased by Iran.

The country has repeatedly stated that its military might is merely based on the nation's defense doctrine of deterrence and poses no threat to other countries.